These days I wake up to 20+ new emails in my inbox every morning. I used to wake up to 100+. Everything from personal emails from family and friends, notifications from social sites, promotional offers from stores and of course work related emails pour into my inbox on a daily basis, vying for my immediate attention. Over time, I’ve developed a system that works great, keeps me underwhelmed by email, and gives my inbox the seemingly elusive ‘No New Mail!’ message everyday.
- Check and respond to email during certain periods of the day. There’s nothing worse to mentally start the day with than waking up and checking your email while you are still lying in bed. Your mind starts immediately thinking about how to respond, what needs to be done, whom you need to call and what priority you need to start with at work. All before you’ve had time to stretch and say good morning to yourself and anyone else around! Make a commitment not to sleep with your phone or other electronic right next to your bed to get rid of the habit of checking your email first thing each morning. I make it a point to only check and respond to email during certain periods of the day in 15-minute increments. When you first start, you may need a longer period of time, but once you’ve completed these steps regularly, you should see that time decrease significantly. Identify those times for yourself, and stick with it, you’ll thank yourself once the habit has become ingrained.
- Respond to all emails that take less than 2 minutes to take care of first. Once you’ve established when you will be handling your inbox each day, dive in at the appointed time and respond to any emails that take 2 minutes or less to handle. Whether it is writing a short, direct response about a business meeting, or emailing your sister about little Mary’s birthday party, writing short, concise emails will save you time and ensure that you get through more of your emails during the allotted time frame. Be sure to respond to all the ‘2 minute emails’ first, even if other emails seem to be higher priority. Once this is a habit, you will find yourself breezing through the 2 minute emails in less than 2 minutes and getting to your higher priority emails quickly.
- Unsubscribe from promotional emails you no longer want to see. Our first instinct with emails that we no longer want to see is to delete them or mark them as spam. However, with the Can-Spam Act in place, businesses are required to allow you to unsubscribe in only two clicks or less. Take a moment and unsubscribe from unwanted emails, it will save you time if you spend two extra clicks now, instead of two clicks every day selecting the email, then clicking spam or trash.
- Archive emails about items or posts you want to read later. Many people subscribe to news emails, blogs and other informational content they want to see on a regular basis. Myself included. Most of the time when I am cleaning my email, I don’t intend to read the content at that very moment. However, having it sit in my line of site constantly in my inbox is distracting when I am trying to answer other emails. You can do a couple different things to handle this. I have an ‘In Progress’ folder where I archive reading materials for a later time. For higher volume content from specific niches, I create a folder like ‘Minimalist Reading’, and have setup filters to auto-direct those emails to that folder so I never see them until I am ready to read. This is the preferred method for keeping your inbox cleaner, and avoiding the extra steps of archiving.
- Handle priority and longer response emails. After you’ve completed steps 1-4, take a look at your higher priority emails and emails that require longer responses. Respond to them in order of their urgency until your allotted timeframe for email is over. Your second or third email timeframe of the day should go much smoother with the majority of emails being the higher priority and longer response emails that are leftover from your first session. As you implement these steps regularly, you will find that you are able to get through all of your emails every session, and may even be able to cut down the number of times you check your email.
Checking email for most of us, has become an ingrained habit, something we do almost mindlessly whenever we have a moment that might be free. Being overwhelmed by information via email has become a very large part of what consumes our days and clutters our minds. Free your self from the overwhelming flood of contact and take back the control from constant checking. You’ll be healthier and make room for face-to-face human interaction, something that we need as well.
Tell me about your email, how many emails do you get a day and how do you stay on top of them?